By Karen Hunley
If you come down South Donahue Drive toward the stadium on Auburn game days, you can’t miss Michael Garber’s mega-tailgating-mobile, the “Tiger Prowler.” Look a little closer and you’ll see hundreds—yes, hundreds –of people crowded around the refurbished school bus complete with wild blue stripes as they enjoy one of the most vibrant tailgating atmospheres around Jordan Hare Stadium.
“For a big game, we might have 300 to 400 people come by our tailgate,” Garber says.
Garber bought the bus in 2011 when he lived in Atlanta. After about a month of painting and renovating the inside, he debuted the bus at that year’s Ole Miss game in Auburn. The next season he added a “sky lounge” deck on top of the bus, complete with handrails certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The bus also includes a built-in liquor station on the exterior where guests can choose from rum, tequila, and vodka to mix with whatever they like; a bedroom set up to look like Jordan Hare Stadium; and dinettes that convert into extra beds. Garber painted the bus himself and renovated it with friends’ help. For each home game weekend, friends help save his tailgate spot in the Donahue Drive RV field and then help set up the tailgate.
“We are usually able to find students to help us … it varies every year who helps us save the spot and set up,” he says.
Any avid tailgater knows that good food and good drinks are the core of successful pregame festivities, and Garber and his crew have both covered. With four other RVs who regularly tailgate around the Tiger Prowler—people Garber has met and befriended over the years of tailgating in the same location—it’s not hard to find good food. The only problem might be finding plates large enough to accommodate all the food.
“Everybody pitches in with food, and with so many people, we just lay it all out there and it’s always more than enough,” Garber says.
Recently, for big SEC match-ups, the Tiger Prowler tailgates have also featured live music at some point during the day.
With all these amenities, it’s no surprise that the Tiger Prowler tailgate was up for the title of Tailgate Rivals’ 2014 “Ultimate Tailgate,” awarded at the end of the football season. Garber won the website’s blitz competition for getting the most votes in a two-week period.
Although Garber didn’t roll out this particular bus until 2011, he’s been organizing big tailgates since he was a freshman at Auburn in 2005. In fact, the current Tiger Prowler is actually a second edition—he had another bus during the 2009 season. After a series of mechanical problems with the first bus, Garber eventually wound up scrolling through Craigslist looking for a replacement and found what would become Tiger Prowler 2.
“I just wanted to do something different; I thought about a tailgating bus when I was a freshman, but I never really had the money until after college,” he says. “I even drew what I wanted it to look like.”
But the Tiger Prowler tailgate is about more than partying. After drawing so many of the same people together week after week during football season, the tailgate has even spawned four marriages so far.
“And no divorces yet!” Garber jokes.